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Tricky Tactics the Restaurant Industry Uses to Increase Your Spending

Tricky Tactics the Restaurant Industry Uses to Increase Your Spending

Have you ever eaten at a restaurant and spent more on a meal than you had originally planned to? Or left a restaurant after tipping your server a bit too much. Well, you may have fallen subject to some the restaurant industry’s sneaky ways to get you to spend more money without even realizing it. Especially during the summertime and holiday seasons, many restaurant owners use sneaky tactics to boost their profits. Take a look at some of the money-making methods that restaurants use and be sure to consider them while you are dining out in order to save yourself a considerable amount of money.


How much guests spend on a meal often depends on the way the menu is presented. Although, normally, people read content from left to right, studies show that people’s eyes gravitate toward the upper right section of a menu first. Therefore, this is usually where you can find the most profitable item on the menu. Not only are customers likely to order this item if it is something that sounds good to them, but they are also likely to think that everything else on the menu seems a lot cheaper. Therefore, the second most expensive item may be appealing to them, simply because it is cheaper than the most expensive item that they saw first. For your advantage, you should know that conversely, research suggests that the least expensive dishes are positioned at the bottom left of the menu, as this is where people tend to look last.

Another menu presentation technique restaurants use is centre-aligning their menu items. When the list is right-justified, it is easier for customers to compare prices. By centre-aligning them, it makes it more difficult to compare prices to hunt for the cheapest items.

Research shows that currency symbols on menus may make a significant difference in people’s spending at restaurants. One study found that customers given a menu with only numbers - no currency symbols - spend significantly more than those who were given a menu with currency symbols. Along this same line, research also shows that adding pictures to a menu can increase sales of an item by as much as a third.


From the color of the plates to the shape of the glasses to the music playing overhead, the sensory impact of every aspect of the restaurant plays into customers’ spending habits. For example, if a restaurant is selling an expensive French wine, and a less expensive German wine, the restaurant will most likely be playing French music overhead, in order to subconsciously push the customer toward buying the more expensive French wine. 


It is not only restaurant management that uses sneaky tactics to upsell items, but many wait staff are guilty of this as well. Think about it, the bigger the bill, the bigger the tip. Therefore, many servers understand the importance of upselling and getting the customer to spend more than they originally planned. One way to do this is for servers to verbally list specials, rather than writing them down. This way, they can conveniently leave out the price details which in turn, increases spending.

Similarly, listing wines in a specific order can increase customers’ spending habits as well. According to a previous study, people tend to best remember the first two choices they are given. Therefore, servers will list the most expensive wines at the beginning of the list, in hopes that this is what the customer will remember the most.


Along with all of these other little tricks, believe it or not, the food in front of you is yet another sneaky tactic. For example, the complementary popcorn, chips, or olives that are placed in front of you when you sit down at a restaurant are not just a kind gesture. Rather, they are intended to make you order more drinks.

Additionally, “specials” are not always special. Typically, they are actually just meals made from leftover ingredients, or food that is going to expire soon. Therefore, they are not necessarily cheaper than other meals at all.

As you can see, the restaurant industry has quite a few tricks up its sleeve to try and get you to spend more money. So, if you are looking to save some bucks the next time you decide to dine out, be sure to keep an eye out for these sneaky tactics restaurants try to use on you!


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